by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide
It wasn't long after the Nineties began that Ford introduced what would become one of the most significant vehicles in its long history. But as it so happened, that debut coincided with the loss of a couple of long-time favorites.
1990 was the last year for Ford's faithful C-Series trucks.
1990 Ford Trucks
In 1990, Ford announced that the beloved medium-duty C-Series Tilt Cab truck, which was introduced for 1957 and had soldiered on for more than 30 years with hardly a change or complaint, was to be decommissioned.
1990 Ford Ranger
Newly optional on the 1990 Ford Ranger was the same 4.0-liter V-6 added to the Aerostar minivan's engine roster. Gone for '90 was the sporty GT package.
1990 Bronco II
Bronco II was in its swan-song year, and was thus carried over with few changes.
1990 Ford Bronco
Aside from the four-speed overdrive automatic transmission being offered with all engines for 1990, the Bronco received few changes.
The medium-duty Ford Cargo, introduced for 1986, was originally intended to replace the C-Series Tilt Cab truck, but it wasn't until 1990 that it actually did so.
1990 and 1957 Ford C-Series truck
After an unprecedented 34 years on the market with very few changes, the C-Series breathed its last in 1990. Its demise was a surprise -- and disappointment -- to many, as it remained one of the most popular trucks of its type right up to its dying day. In this split photo, the 1990 model is on the left, the original '57 version on the right.
The Ford Explorer arrived on the scene at the end of the 1990 model year. Continue reading and track its progress toward becoming the nation's top-selling SUV.
1991 Ford Trucks
Toward the end of the 1990 model year, Ford released a new sport-utility vehicle called the Explorer. It was labeled a 1991 model and would quickly become the best-selling SUV in the U.S. -- a title it has garnered every year since. But it spelled the end of the smaller two-door Bronco II, which had amassed its own devoted following with its tidy size and reasonable fuel efficiency.
1991 Ranger STX
Two-wheel-drive Rangers got an optional 3.0-liter V-6 engine for 1991 to replace the 2.9-liter offered previously (and still optional on 4x4s), gaining five horsepower in the bargain, to 145. Dress-up option packages included the STX, as shown here.
1991 Ford Ranger Sport
Another decor package option for the 1991 Ranger was the Sport, as shown above.
SuperCab Ford Ranger
The optional Ford Ranger 4.0-liter V-6 could now be linked to a five-speed manual in addition to a four-speed automatic. Regular and SuperCab (shown above) body styles remained available.
1991 Ford Explorer
Introduced in the spring of 1990 as a '91 model, the Explorer looked quite similar to the Bronco II it replaced. But while the Bronco II came only in a two-door version, the Explorer was offered with either two or four doors. Both were significantly larger than the Bronco II -- the two-door by more than a foot, the four-door by nearly two feet. The only engine offered was the Ranger's 155-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6, which helped provide a 5500-lb towing capacity.
Ford's Phenomenal Explorer
A colossal hit right out of the box, Ford's Explorer sport-utility vehicle would go on to become one of the company's most important products. It came in two- and four-door body styles (the four-door proving far more popular), and both versions were somewhat larger than their direct competitors.
Explorer's combination of passenger and cargo room, maneuverable size, adequate power, and features for the money -- along with overwhelmingly favorable magazine reviews -- made it America's best-selling SUV in its very first model year on the market. And it has continued to hold that title every year since.
1991 Ford F-150
New for 1991's Ford F-150s was a Nite trim package that included blackout exterior trim and alloy wheels with white-lettered tires. It was offered on both regular and SuperCab models.
New graphics and style options for several tried-and-true Ford truck lines arrived in 1992.
1992 Ford Trucks
Ford celebrated its 75th anniversary of making trucks during 1992, a year that also brought a redesign of the full-size Econoline vans. These vehicles had not seen major changes since 1975, so it was a welcome modernization.
1992 Ranger STX
The 1992 Ford Ranger's STX package came with side graphics, as shown on this SuperCab 4x4.
1992 Ford Ranger Sport
1992 Ford Ranger Sport models got their own distinct -- and colorful -- graphics.
1992 Ford F-Series trucks
The Flareside bed returned as an option in 1992 after a four-year absence. It was available on both regular- and extended-cab models of F-Series pickup trucks.
1992 Ford Bronco
The full-size Bronco received the same new front-end treatment as the Ford F-Series trucks, and also added a Nite trim package similar to that introduced on F-Series trucks the previous year.
1992 Ford F-Series
Ford F-Series pickups were also treated to a front-end restyle for 1992 that resulted in a smoother face.
Two unusual Ford concept trucks were briefly introduced in 1993, but never mass produced.
1993 Ford Trucks
The 1993 Ford model year brought an update for the Ranger compact pickup truck, which had seen few changes since its 1983 introduction. It also brought the debut of a high-performance F-150 -- an oxymoron to some -- called the Lightning. Ford's Special Vehicle Team built it for buyers who wanted the utility of a truck with the power and handling of a performance car. The Lightning would come and go over the years, but it would always stay true to its originally stated mission.
Based on Ford of Europe's Escort Van, the Ecostar was an experimental electric vehicle that was not sold to the general public in the U.S., but did see limited fleet use. It was claimed to have a top speed of 75 mph and range of 100 miles courtesy of its sodium-sulfur battery pack.
1993 Ford Ranger
A rounded-edge restyle was applied to the Ford Ranger pickup truck for 1993, its first since 1989.
1993 Ford Ranger
A revised Ford Ranger interior also came along for the restyle ride, but powertrains carried over.
1992 Ford Lightning
Replacing the Ford F-150's Nite package for 1993 was the performance-oriented Lightning, which lived up to its name with a special version of the 5.8-liter V-8 engine packing 240 horsepower, vs. 200 for other 5.8s. Like the Nite, Lightning featured blackout trim, to which was added a sport suspension with 17-inch alloy wheels, front spoiler, and specific bucket seats.
Ford F-150 Eddie Bauer Expedition concept truck
Ford touted the F-150 Eddie Bauer Expedition as "The outdoorsman's dream vehicle," but never sold it to outdoorsmen -- or anyone else. The 1992 concept truck featured a bed cover that included a pull-out stove and refrigerator under a protective awning, along with extra storage compartments. What did eventually make it to production was the Expedition name, which would later be applied to a full-size SUV.
Ford made several safety enhancements in 1994.
1994 Ford Trucks
Ford highlighted safety for 1994, as the Econoline van gained four-wheel anti-lock brakes and the Ford F-Series pickup trucks got a driver-side airbag.
1994 Ford Ranger Splash
Midway through the 1993 model year -- in which it was redesigned -- Ranger added a sporty Splash model to its lineup that included a Flareside bed and special trim. At first offered only as a regular cab, an extended-cab version (shown here) was added for 1994. Ford-owned Mazda now sold its own version of the Ranger as the B-Series, but it didn't offer a Flareside bed.
1994 Ford F-150 Flareside
Ford's high-performance Lightning was dropped from the F-150 lineup for 1994. But an F-150 Flareside could still be ordered with a 5.8-liter V-8; while the Lightning's 240-horsepower version was gone, the remaining 5.8 gained 10 hp for a total of 210.
1994 Ford F-Series
Light-duty F-Series pickups got a driver-side airbag for 1994, but there were few other changes of note.
Ford introduced a new turbodiesel truck engine and a redesigned Explorer in 1995.
1995 Ford Trucks
Ford added a more modern minivan to its line for 1995. Called the Windstar, this front-wheel-drive people-mover was initially intended to replace the aging Aerostar, but the latter's continued popularity made it the Windstar's running mate until finally being retired after 1997.
Although the Ford Explorer was still the number-one seller in its market segment, Ford elected to freshen its appearance for the 1995 model year. Also newly available that year was a flexible-fuel version (FFV) that could run on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol, the latter a fuel made from corn.
1995 Ford Ranger
The Ford Ranger pickup truck received a host of changes for 1995, including an available driver-side airbag and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Also, the grille was revised and the base 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine gained 14 horsepower, now 112.
1995 Ford Bronco
Ford's full-size Bronco sport-utility received only minor trim changes for 1995.
1995 Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer received its first styling change since being introduced as a 1991 model. A new grille (in either chrome or body color, depending on trim level) highlighted a rounded front end, and a revised interior included dual front airbags. Both two-door and four-door versions continued to be offered, but the latter remained far more popular.
1995 Ford F-350
F-250 Heavy Duty and F-350 models were available with a revised direct-injection turbodiesel engine for 1995.
Ford's direct-injection turbodiesel engine
This new engine (shown here) produced 210 horsepower and a whopping 425 pound-feet of torque -- both up significantly over previous versions. The turbodiesel was also offered in heavy-duty versions of the Econoline/Club Wagon.
Heavier-duty Ford trucks were redesigned for 1996 -- and sold to another company soon after.
1996 Ford Trucks
For 1996, Mercury dealers got their own version of the Ford Explorer to sell. Called the Mountaineer, it came with unique trim and a standard V-8. The 1996 Ford truck model year would also bring totally redesigned Class 7 and 8 Louisville Line models, closely followed by new Class 8 Ford AeroMax trucks.
Ford spent a lot of time, money, and effort developing these vehicles to make them the class of their class, giving them sleek styling intended to take them into the 21st century. This all proved perplexing a short time later when Ford announced it was seeking to sell off these truck lines -- the eventual buyer being archrival Freightliner.
Although the sale shocked many observers, it was a move by Ford to free up manufacturing space for its popular light-duty vehicles, such as the Explorer and F-Series pickup trucks.
1996 Ford Ranger
Ranger pickup trucks added an optional passenger-side airbag for 1996. Included was a switch that allowed the bag to be deactivated if a child seat was placed in the front seat.
1996 Ford Bronco
The 1996 model year would prove the last for the Bronco, as it came to the end of its rope after a 30-year run. Sales of two-door SUVs in general were on the wane, as customers increasingly preferred the convenience of four doors.
1996 Ford F-Series
Ford F-Series pickup trucks continued with few changes for 1996, although dropped from the line were a couple of versions that would overlap with the early arriving (and redesigned) 1997 models, along with the high-performance F-150 Lightning.
1996 Ford Louisville Line
The Louisville Line of Ford trucks was redesigned for 1996, getting a sloped windshield and rounded front contours, the latter made more prominent on this version thanks to its set-back front axle.
1996 AeroMax 9500
Featuring a laid-back windshield and rounded edges that presented a slippery face to the wind, the AeroMax 9500 was introduced for 1996 as Ford's top truck.
The Ford F-Series trucks received a redesign in 1997 -- their first since 1980.
1997 Ford Trucks
Arriving in the 1997 Ford trucks lineup was a completely redesigned full-size truck that featured the most radical changes yet seen from one generation of Ford pickups to the next. Introduced early in the 1996 calendar year, only certain models of the new F-Series trucks were offered at first, so some versions of the 1996-style trucks continued to be sold alongside them.
Among others, these included all the heavy-duty pickups (Ford F-250 HD and F-350), which wouldn't be redesigned until the 1999 model year. Among the Ford F-Series' many early accolades was the coveted Truck of the Year award from Motor Trend magazine.
This year also marked the end of the full-size two-door Ford Bronco SUV after a 30-year run. In its place came the even larger four-door Expedition, which was based on the new-for-1997 F-Series trucks, and offered more interior room and more options than Bronco ever did.
1997 Ford Explorer
Added to the Ford Explorer's powertrain roster for 1997 was a 205-horsepower 4.0-liter overhead-cam V-6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. Still offered was the previous 160-hp 4.0-liter overhead-valve V-6 -- now also mated to the new five-speed automatic -- plus the 210-hp 5.0-liter overhead-valve V-8 with four-speed automatic. Starting in 1996, Ford's sister division, Mercury, began selling a near clone of the Explorer as the Mountaineer.
1997 Ford F-150 Flareside
In its most radical change since 1980, the F-Series was redesigned for 1997. At first offered only in F-150 form -- and even then with a limited lineup -- it arrived early in the 1996 calendar year and was sold alongside the 1996 models. Both Flareside (shown here) and Styleside beds were available.
Early production focused on SuperCab (extended cab) versions, which featured a rear-hinged back door on the passenger side. These were sometimes called "half doors," as they were smaller than conventional ones. Also, they hinged at the rear and could only be opened after the corresponding front door was opened.
1997 Ford F-150
As production ramped up, regular-cab versions of the Ford F-150 truck became more plentiful. Grilles came in either body color (as shown here) or chrome, depending on trim level. Power came from a trio of new engines: a 4.2-liter overhead-valve V-6, and overhead cam V-8s of 4.6 and 5.4 liters. All produced more horsepower than the larger engines they replaced.
1997 Ford NASCAR F-150
Ford didn't waste any time entering the sleek new F-150 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
1997 AeroMax 9500
The AeroMax 9500 had become Ford's top-of-the-line truck when introduced for 1996, and this Ford truck changed little for 1997. Its aerodynamic front end incorporated flush-mounted wraparound headlights and vertical "nostrils" flanking the upper half of the grille.
A major anniversary and an electric-powered vehicle were among Ford's truck highlights for 1998.
1998 Ford Trucks
Ford Motor Company reached a milestone in 1998 when it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the F-Series brand. And at the smaller end of the truck scale, Ranger received a longer cab and larger standard engine, along with an electric-powered model. The year also brought Lincoln dealers an upscale version of the Expedition called Navigator.
Ford introduced the Ranger EV (Electric Vehicle) for 1998. Powered by a rear-mounted 90-horsepower electric motor, the EV claimed a top speed of 75 mph and a range of from 35 to 50 miles from conventional lead-acid batteries mounted between the frame rails. Anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, and an electric heater were standard; air conditioning was optional. Shared with standard 1998 Ford Rangers was a regular cab that was three inches longer than before, allowing for more legroom.
Ford Ranger EV's instrument panel
The Ford Ranger EV's instrument panel included a "Distance to Empty" gauge indicating how far the truck could be driven based on the amount of charge left in the batteries. The "E" on the gear indicator stood for "Economy Drive." When selected, it increased the amount of electrical regeneration when braking.
1998 Ford Ranger SuperCab
Not available in EV form was the Ford Ranger with extended SuperCab, which for 1998 offered dual rear-hinged back doors, a feature not available on any other contemporary compact pickup. Also for 1998, the Ranger's base engine grew from 2.3 liters to 2.5.
1998 NASCAR F-150 pickup truck
The NASCAR F-150 marked the Golden Anniversaries of both the stock-car racing association and Ford's F-Series pickups. The dual side exhausts shown on this prototype were moved to the rear on production versions.
1948 and 1998 Ford F-Series trucks
Ford didn't let the 50th Anniversary of the F-Series pass unnoticed, with numerous promotions depicting the inaugural 1948 version beside a new 1998 model.
Lightning returned and Ford positioned itself for the new century in 1999.
1999 Ford Trucks
Midway through the 1998 model year, Ford finally introduced new heavy-duty F-Series pickup trucks based on the redesigned light-duty versions that had appeared for 1997. Tagged as 1999 Ford truck models, the F-250 HD and F-350 carried a similar but brawnier look, befitting their load-lugging status. Also arriving as a 1999 model was a revised Windstar minivan with dual sliding side doors.
1999 Ford Lightning
Returning in 1999 after a three-year hiatus was the high-performance Lightning truck, and it returned with a vengeance. Again based on the Ford F-150, it now carried an exclusive supercharged version of the 5.4-liter V-8 packing a mighty 360 horsepower. As before, a lowered sport suspension and special trim was included in the package.
1999 Ford Super Duty truck
Ford F-250 Heavy Duty and F-350 had lost out when the lighter-duty F-Series models were redesigned for 1997, but these trucks made up for it with a redesign of their own for 1999. Now called Super Duty, they arrived early in the 1998 calendar year, and like their lighter-duty linemates, offered a SuperCab with dual rear-hinged back doors. Styling touches included grilles incorporating vertical "nostrils" at each edge.
Crew cab 1999 Ford Super Duty truck
The 1999 Super Duty F-250 HD and F-350 also were available in crew cab form with four conventional side doors. Engine choices ranged up to a 6.8-liter V-10 with 275 horsepower, and a 7.3-liter V-8 turbodiesel with 235 hp and a stump-pulling 500 pound-feet of torque.
1999 Ford F-150 SuperCab
New for SuperCab versions of the F-150 were dual rear doors; previously, only the passenger side had a rear door. Other changes for 1999 included a revised grille and 25 more horsepower for the available 5.4-liter V-8, now with 26
1999 Ford Super Duty trucks
In 1999, the Ford Super Duty line included even heavier-duty F-450 and F-550 truck models that could be fitted with a variety of bed styles.
With the addition or redesign of several important vehicles and the deletion of its long-standing heavy-duty truck lines, it can never be said that Ford didn't close out the 20th century with a bang. In combination, these changes helped position the company for the next century -- and its second hundred years.